by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
We start off the new year with reviews and giveaways of another great group of fun mysteries published over the last couple months-The Name of the Rosé: A Rose Avenue Wine Club Mystery By Christine E. Blum, Slay in Character: A Cat Latimer Mystery by Lynn Cahoon, Hooks Can Be Deceiving: A Crochet Mystery by Betty Hechtman, Botched 4 Murder: A Sophie Kimball Mysteries by J. C. Eaton, A Moment in Crime: A Santa Fe Revival Mystery by Amanda Allen, Downright Dead: A B&B Spirits Mystery by Pamela Kopfler. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 6 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
The Name of the Rosé: A Rose Avenue Wine Club Mystery By Christine E. Blum
Review by Sandra Murphy
Annie “Halsey” Hall moved to Rose Avenue, and her life hasn’t been the same since. There’s her crazy neighbor Marisol, her new love Jack, Aimee, Peggy, Sally, and Mary Ann, members of the Rose Street Wine Club. That means they get together often to drink wine, catch up on neighborhood gossip, and eat snacks. Oh yeah, and solve the occasional murder.
This time there’s drug smuggling involved when a package of illegal drugs and fish on ice stuffed with heroin show up after a small plane sort of crashes when landing. Mary Ann’s husband isn’t answering his cell phone, and no one has seen him since morning. The police are involved, and the whole thing gets more complicated when a dead body is found inside a hanger at the airport. Halsey can’t seem to help herself; she just has to know what’s going on. The other women are only too happy to help out, each with a unique skill set for finding out the truth. Even Marisol is helpful, probably because it gives her a chance to boss around her nephew Augie, the police detective who can’t say no to her.
There should be a clear idea of who the killer is since the death occurred at the airport. Strangers would stand out there. Nothing makes much sense, though, which frustrates the women and the police.
Marisol is at her finest, moving with the stealth of a ninja, aware of everything that goes on in the neighborhood, and meddling wherever possible. Jack and Halsey’s romance is one to envy. He loves her truly, in spite of his reservations about the mishaps that occur when the Wine Club investigates crimes. Bardot, Halsey’s Lab, livens up every page. She listens to Jack better than Halsey does but manages to get herself (and Halsey) in trouble whenever possible.
The mystery will leave readers guessing until the end. The ending will leave readers screaming for more—and soon. Since it always takes a while for the next book to be written and published, while waiting test some new wines. Halsey includes a list of the wines served at their meetings and their guide to pairing wines with cuisines of the world. This is the third book in the series—each one is better than the last. Sit down, have a glass of wine, and meet Halsey and her friends. You won’t be disappointed.
Slay in Character: A Cat Latimer Mystery by Lynn Cahoon
Review by Sandra Murphy
Cat runs a monthly writers retreat. Each session includes a student from the nearby college. Things haven’t always gone smoothly during some of the retreats, but Cat is sure things will calm down.
Jessi is this month’s student. The group has an extra bonus with a trip to the ghost town of Outlaw. It’s similar to Disney World in that no one appears out of character when guests are in town. Jessi and her roommate Danielle, both work there.
Each of the group has her picture taken in saloon gal outfits, a little flashier than Cat had in mind, but it’s all in fun. When a body is found, still in costume, questions arise. How did the killer get onto the property? Was the victim the target or a random choice? As the truth comes, Cat realizes things are not what they seem.
I like the relationship between Cat and Seth, her high school boyfriend. After years apart, they are back together. He’s protective of her and that’s a good thing since she does take some risks when trying to solve a murder. Shauna is not only the cook but the business mind behind the retreats. She keeps track of the registrants, the schedule and more, so Cat is able to work on her own books. I especially like Uncle Pete. He’s the local law, and although he lets Cat get away with more snooping than he should, he’s a likable guy. Now that he has a love interest of his own, I expect to see more of him on the page, besides dropping by for meals!
Anywhere there are books, there should be animals. This was lacking in the previous books but not anymore. Cats and horses are bound to ramp up the antics and humor to a new level.
If you’ve ever wondered where writers get their ideas, this is the series for you. Anything they see, do, hear, taste, or smell, could well end up in a book.
This is the fourth book in the series. A recipe for Easy Blueberry Coffee Cake is in the back. Cahoon also writes the Farm-to-Fork mysteries (2), and the Tourist Trap books (12).
Hooks Can Be Deceiving: A Crochet Mystery by Betty Hechtman
Review by Sandra Murphy
Molly Pink is the assistant manager at the bookstore in Tarzana where she’s also in charge of the Tarzana Hookers – crochet hook-ers, that is. Every afternoon, regular members meet for an hour’s relaxation to crochet a charitable donation or work on a project of their own. Newcomers are welcome.
Now the group is excited to learn the Craftee Channel wants to film the debut of Creating with Crochet. Of course, Adele, who is rabid about crochet, thinks she’ll be tapped to be the show’s host. That’s never going to happen. Rory Graham, a former reality star, has been tapped for the job, citing her expertise in crochet. However, she can’t manage the first stitch.
Molly is also in charge of author signings and the next one will bring in the crowds. A mysterious writer has penned a steamy novel but will only appear in disguise. Add in Adele’s popular kid’s corner, a café, the romance readers and poets who meet each week, and the book store is a happening place.
One of the new members is Marianne. She’s a bit odd, and the woman with her, Connie, is a puzzle as well. Neither has much to say, so it’s hard to know if they’re even enjoying themselves. Before anyone has a chance to get to know them, Connie dies in a bizarre accident—or was it?
Molly isn’t surprised that her ex-something (boyfriend? date? nothing sounds right) is investigating. Ordinarily, he wants her to keep out of his cases, but this time is different.
This is the thirteenth book in the series and my favorite because the plot is more complicated than usual. There are a number of suspects, each with a good motive and plenty of secrets. I picked out a likely killer and had a backup choice only to find out I was totally wrong.
Molly is still dating Mason, the lawyer, although readers will see sparks between Molly and Barry, the detective, whether or not either of them will admit it. The addition of the television crew brings a new dimension to the bookstore. Molly’s best friend, Dinah, has complications in married life with the Commander.
Change is coming to all their lives and readers will be anxious to find out what’s next. As Mason always says, there’s never a dull moment with Molly Pink. He’s got that right!
As a treat, readers can find two crochet patterns (CeeCee’s Gratitude Circle and Elise’s Color Square) and two recipes (Molly’s Chinese Jelly and Rhoda’s Cake for a Break).
Hechtman also writes the Yarn Retreat mysteries, five so far. It will be hard to choose a favorite series so plan on reading all her books.
Botched 4 Murder: A Sophie Kimball Mysteries by J. C. Eaton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sorrel Harlan is the newest board member at an Arizona retirement community. She’s got the long hair, frumpy clothes, Birkenstock look of an aging hippy. Who knew she could be such a troublemaker? That hippy mind is one with the urge to right wrongs, make changes and upset a lot of people in the process.
Her latest idea is to do away with two golf courses and turn them into public green areas. She envisions fireworks displays, picnic areas, playgrounds for kids, and more. The homeowners who paid a premium to live next to the courses envision property values slicing into the rough.
Bocce is also a popular pastime and Myrna is determined to master it. It would help if she could toss the ball rather than throw it like a shotput event. When one of her throws lands on the golf course, more than the ball is found. It’s landed next to a dead body. Three guesses as to whose body it is.
This is the fourth book in the series. Phee moved to Phoenix, following her old boss into his retirement business as a private detective. Although she’s the bookkeeper, she manages to become involved with investigations thanks to her mother. Mom’s friends tend to jump to conclusions as their regular exercise. They panic and assume the worst and then rely on a reluctant Phee to save the day. In spite of being annoying, they are a funny bunch to read about. Living with them would be beyond anyone’s patience level. A death at their retirement community ranks up there with an incoming asteroid, but they’re sure Phee is the one to save them from imminent death.
I particularly like that Phee is in her forties, is romantically involved with one of the PIs, and in spite of her vows to the contrary, ends up helping on cases. She doesn’t put herself into dangerous situations, rather the danger seems to find her.
Although Phee prefers working with numbers, I think future books will have her out of the office and on a case more often. Readers, start with this book but be prepared to want the first three as well.
A Moment in Crime: A Santa Fe Revival Mystery by Amanda Allen
Review by Sandra Murphy
As children, Maddie and her cousin Gwen were inseparable. Gwen was always the impulsive one who wanted to be an actress. Maddie loved to paint. When Gwen headed for California, Maddie went along but fell in love with Santa Fe. Now Gwen is in town, in a small role in a movie with director Luther Bishop. Maddie has a chance to find out rather more than she’d like about the movie business.
Both Maddie and Gwen are Astors. The setting is post-war, when movies were all the rage and flappers were scandalous. Bishop is a tyrant on set, disliked and even hated by most. His personal life is worse. When his body is found, the police must decide if it was suicide or murder.
I love this series. Allen uses authentic language that has her characters say “jeepers,” “what a fizz she is,” and “you look positively knackered.” Gwen and Maddie have revolted against the Astor expectations, much to the embarrassment and worry of their families. Maddie’s romance with the handsome Dr. David is a true relationship as they get to know each other following personal tragedies. Seeing the inside view of the early movie business adds to the story without being a distraction. It’s the story of two women who dared to want more from their lives than being society women, ruled by protocol.
This is the second book in the series. Santa Fe Mourning (reviewed for KRL) details Maddie’s trip West and how she fell in love with Santa Fe—and helped solve a murder. I look forward to book three, to see how Maddie and Dr. David move forward. I have hopes Maddie’s neighbor Gunther, also finds a lasting love interest. He deserves one.
Allen also writes Elizabethan mysteries (5) under the name of Amanda Carmack.
Downright Dead: A B&B Spirits Mystery by Pamela Kopfler
Review by Cynthia Chow
Holly Davis’s Holly Grove Bed and Breakfast is about to rocket to fame with the airing of an Inquiring Minds episode revealing her Louisiana B&B to be a genuine, tourist-attracting, haunted vacation destination. Even better, the aforementioned ghost haunted Holly, her late almost-ex-husband Burl had finally moved on to the next plane and stopped making her life and his afterlife a mess. Unfortunately, it seems that his timing could have been better, as the show’s host Sylvia Martin is demanding a follow-up to her highest ratings episode and won’t take no for an answer. And despite there being no ghost to haunt Holly Grove, the iron-clad contract Holly signs means that she doesn’t have a choice unless she’s willing to pay a huge penalty. Surprisingly, Sylvia doesn’t seem to mind that Burl has up and gone, not hesitating to fake it or stage technical difficulties to cover any lapse of spectral presence. Less willing to accept the lack of a real ghost is Truman Jeremiah Stalwort, III, a debunker trolling Sylvia and who has stealthily booked himself into Holly’s B&B.
Despite their valiant attempts to fake a possession and Holly’s own efforts to hint at a haunting, Tru’s Google glasses record a less-than-credible séance, infuriating Sylvia and threatening to ruin Holly Grove’s haunted reputation. How fortunate then, that a fatal fall through the roof halts all ghostbusting in the B&B, with everyone (except the deceased) more than happy with the results. The new temporary Chief Deputy Sheriff Buster Fuller, with an election looming in his future, immediately declares Holly Grove to be a crime scene and not even the intervention by Holly’s wandering ICE boyfriend Jake McCann will stop the investigation. It’s going to take a real ghost to help prove that that Holly isn’t guilty of murder and that Holly Grove truly is haunted, although in this case it’s not the spectre than anyone expected – or wanted.
To reveal more would ruin the surprise that makes Holly’s life complicated and more than a little stressful. Her devotion to Holly Grove is a genuine pleasure, as it means that she’s willing to do nearly anything to save it and ensure that her dream Bed and Breakfast stays open. That she combats danger and the threats to her success with humor and a roll-with-the punches attitude ensures for a delightful read sure to please readers who love their mysteries with a lot of sarcasm and attitude. Despite the prevalence of troublesome ghosts who often conveniently or inconveniently pop in and out of Holly’s life, her spunky attitude and some unexpected discoveries about her own past promise for an entertainingly unpredictable future.
To enter to win a copy of all 6 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “new year,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 19, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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